United Nations, Apr 14 (PTI) Syria represents the “most serious threat” to international peace and security, UN chief Antonio Guterres said today, urging all the member states to show restraint and avoid any acts that could escalate the situation and worsen suffering of the Syrian people.

Guterres remarks came in the wake of combined military air strikes by the US, the UK and France against President Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime.

“I have been following closely the reports of air strikes in Syria conducted by the US, France and the UK. There’s an obligation, particularly when dealing with matters of peace and security, to act consistently with the Charter of the United Nations and with international law in general. The UN Charter is very clear on these issues,” he said.

He said the Security Council had “primary responsibility” for the maintenance of international peace and security and called on the members of the Security Council to “unite and exercise” that responsibility.

“Syria indeed today represents the most serious threat to international peace and security”, Guterres said.

“I urge all Member States to show restraint in these dangerous circumstances and to avoid any acts that could escalate the situation and worsen the suffering of the Syrian people,” he said in a statement.

US President Donald Trump said the joint action was meant to establish a “strong deterrent” against the production, spread and use of chemical weapons.

Guterres had termed the use of chemical weapons as “abhorrent”, saying the suffering it causes is “horrendous”.

“I have repeatedly expressed my deep disappointment that the Security Council failed to agree on a dedicated mechanism for effective accountability for the use of chemical weapons in Syria. I urge the Security Council to assume its responsibilities and fill this gap,” he said.

Guterres said he will continue to engage with member states to help achieve this objective.

Earlier, Guterres again called for the creation of an independent panel that could determine who used chemical weapons in Syria, as the absence of such a body increases the risks of a military escalation in a country already riven by confrontations and proxy wars.

“In Syria, we see confrontations and proxy wars involving several national armies, a number of armed opposition groups, many national and international militia, foreign fighters from everywhere in the world, and various terrorist organisations,” he added.

Guterres remarks came after the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), which was created as a body to attribute responsibility for the use of chemical weapons in Syria in 2015, expired in November last year.

Due largely to divisions among its five permanent members China, France, Russia, the UK and the US the Council could not adopt three draft resolutions that would have responded to a suspected chemical weapons attack in the Syrian town of Douma nearly a week ago.

Guterres, in a letter to the Council two days ago, expressed his “deep disappointment” at the failure of establishing an accountability mechanism similar to JIM.

He had also called the ambassadors of the five permanent members to reiterate his “deep concern about the risks of the current impasse” and stressed the need to “avoid the situation spiralling out of control”.

In his briefing to the Council, the UN chief warned that “increasing tensions and the inability to reach a compromise in the establishment of an accountability mechanism threaten to lead to a full-blown military escalation”.

“For eight long years the people of Syria have endured suffering upon suffering. I reiterate: there is no military solution to the conflict,” he said.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) the body monitoring and facilitating implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which entered into force in 1997 has dispatched a fact-finding mission to Syria in response to latest allegations of chemical weapons use.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.